How do you visualize the seasons?

Something I find interesting to think about is how each of us see the year in our heads. My husband sees the year as a u-shaped line starting with January, summer is in the round U-bit and December ends the other side of the line. But ever since I was a small child I have visualized the year as a big round clock surrounded by blackness. The months go clockwise, starting with January and continuing all the way around to December 31st at the very top. Some months and seasons are much bigger than others in my head. Spring is the smallest section; it’s probably my least favorite season because I’m waiting for summer to arrive. And of course summer is a far larger section at the bottom of the clock. Autumn and winter blend into one, probably because I enjoy them equally. I wonder how many other people see the year and seasons in this way, and how many other unique ways people visualize the year in their heads?

I think I see it as a clock because the seasons are markers to help us feel time passing throughout the year. Here in southern California we don’t have pronounced seasons, and the years can quickly blend into one another. It’s too easy to feel like it’s always summer, and so I make an effort to notice the smaller and less obvious changes: the purple Jacaranda trees blooming in April, the sound of singing insects on hot summer nights, the few scattered maple trees turning red in late September, and the fiery sunsets over the Pacific in November and December.

Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins is a story about the seasons. In Lucy’s world there are mischief makers who control spring, summer, autumn and winter, and this story is about what happens when one set of these creatures decide they don’t want to leave at the end of their season.

An excerpt from Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins, (picture by Bret Burkmar):

“She explained, “Spring is for planting seeds of all types. Summer is the time when they grow fat and ripe. Autumn is for storing up, harvesting, and reaping. And wintertime is needed for resting and sleeping. Each season has a place to keep our world on track. Autumn belongs to you, but winter belongs to Jack.””

As with any artistic project, there are seasons within the creation of it, too. For our children’s book the seeds of the story are sown, the ‘what if’ question is asked, and springing forth from those seeds is a rich, fat, colorful story with text and sketches that morph into sharp, bold pictures together they mature into a complete book, with glossy bright covers bursting with life, laughs and likable characters. Then comes the harvest time, when the book is ripe to be plucked from shelves, both real and online. Then the book is enjoyed or saved for reading in bed on a cold winter’s night. Then we rest before the cycle begins again for the next installment.

Although we’re just about to start summer in the northern hemisphere, the metaphorical harvest time is almost here for Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins, so stay tuned for more updates.

More Soon,

C.C.

“Night, when words fade and things come alive.”

The above quotation is by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, it seemed like a good fit for a blog pondering the nighttime.

As I polish the last draft of Lucys third adventure, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Slumber Beasts, Ive noticed a common thread that runs through quite a few of my stories - the best bits tend to happen during the night. This made me think about what the nighttime means to me and to answer that I need to look back at my childhood.

Children are supposed to be in bed and asleep at night while parents and older siblings are allowed to stay up. Its also when all kinds of monsters and creatures come to life. I remember many childhood nights being afraid in the darkness and sleeping with the covers pulled up over my head. It was far too hot under the covers to breathe so Id have to make a little gap at the top of my blankets, an air hole, to breathe through. I mainly worried about weird shadows on the wall, ghosts, werewolves, vampires and creepy dolls coming to life (I was never a doll person). At night it seemed like those creatures could exist and that magic things could happen just because it was dark, but in the light of day all of those things seemed 100% ludicrous. Maybe it has to do with the disappearing light - perhaps the inability to see clearly means you can't think clearly either and what is real and what is not becomes blurred. Also, things that are invisible in the daytime are visible at night, like the stars and our sense of belief in odd things. Its strange to think that the sunlight which helps us to see so much clearer can also hide things from us that are always in the sky to the point where we wait for the stars to come out again.

The world growing darker and quieter changes our brains. At night a lot of stimulation is removed, including light and sound, and this prepares our brains for sleep. With the extreme removal of mental stimulation we can even have hallucinations. These changes in our bodies must affect our thoughts and reasoning, possibly making us two different people - the daytime version and the nighttime version” of ourselves. My thoughts seem different if I wake up in the middle of the night versus how they are when I awake in the morning. Nighttime thoughts can be filled with anxiety and sometimes complete certainty about something, but in the daytime those same thoughts just arent as clear and that certainty has been replaced with maybes and maybe nots.

So I think the nighttime features so often in my stories because it symbolizes a place filled with strange possibilities - the only time of day where things that are invisible in the daylight could become solid and real. Where perhaps people become different versions of themselves or entirely different people altogether. I think it's a magical time filled with sparkling stars, and stars absolutely symbolize magic to me. And as its a place where children dont traditionally belong I think its appealing to children to be allowed to escape vicariously with Lucy on a nighttime adventure before slipping into their own vivid dreams.

Lucy creeping down the stairs

Picture by Bret Burkmar.

More soon,

C.C.


Where did Lucy come from?

As we get near to releasing Lucy's second story, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins, I began to think about how Lucy came to be.

Up until 2011 I had only been writing stories for adults. I had just finished my third screenplay and decided to take a week off from writing to reward myself for finishing the latest rewrite. This 'week off' was to start on the following Monday. That Monday morning I lay in bed thinking, as I tend to do my best 'story thinking' first thing in the morning, or on long walks with my Boston Terrier, Murphy. I lay there and thought about my friend's birthday; she was born on a leap year, February 29th, and only has a true birthday every four years (I think this is how she stays so youthful). The other years she chooses either February 28th or March 1st. And as with the beginning of all stories it started with a question: "Where does her birthday go those other three years?" And an answer sprung to mind - there are monsters eating it!

I got up right away, made my coffee, sat down to write and the whole story came out in one go, along with ghost kittens and birthday songs. But unusually for me it came out in rhyme. It wasn't very rhythmically correct in that first draft (nor in the next few to be honest), but it had that feel and it was the only way this story was going to come out of my head, so I went with it. I found that I loved writing in rhyme, it was just plain fun. Of course things changed as I rewrote each draft. Things were cut out, new things were added and the rhythm came together nicely with each rewrite.

Then I spoke to my artist friend, Bret, about illustrating it. I sent him the story and he came up with several wonderful concept pictures, all of which ended up in the finished book. I think this one is my favorite, as it perfectly captures that whole scene of Lucy retreating to her bedroom and feeling afraid of the monsters outside in her garden: 

As soon as I had finished the first story, three others promptly appeared in my head, each with a fun and unique monster problem for Lucy to overcome. And again, each came out in lyrical prose. So these are the other three stories for Lucy that Bret and I are working on now, and there will be more on the creation of the third and fourth tales in later blog posts. You can read a past blog post here on the inspiration for Lucy’s second story, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins.

So far there are four stories, but I have a feeling there could be a few more fantastic tales in store for Lucy...

More soon,

C.C.

© 2014- 2017 Claudine Carmel All Rights Reserved